When it came to honoring one of the most cherished coaches to ever hail from Muskogee, this was one two-minute drill no one could execute.
The request to the nine people who spoke about Albert “Doc” Schoats on Saturday afternoon at Timothy Baptist Church was to keep their remarks about the man to two minutes.
No one came close.
“With a man, a life and a legacy as Dr. Shoats, you really can’t get all that in in a two-minute time frame,” realized Stephen Wiley, the pastor at Praise Center Family Church who served as the officiating pastor of Schoats’ funeral, or ‘homecoming celebration’, along with Gary Hall, the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church.
“Everybody here has a Dr. Schoats story, but we can’t all hear your stories today. Y’all talk amongst yourselves. But there are stories to be told.”
All those who talked about Schoats did not dwell upon the loss of a friend, colleague, coach or grandfather, but instead celebrated the life of the legendary former football player and coach of Manual Training High School and Langston University through speeches that consistently induced laughter and happy memories.
Speaking on behalf of Mount Calvary, a church at which Schoats became a staple, Mary Wynn spoke to the honoree directly at one point.
“You have left your footprints on the sands of time through us and for us,” she said. “And people know all about you now. They know who you are. They know what you did. And they know what you stood for.”
Wynn, like everyone else who spoke, emphasized Schoats’ selfless nature and the fact that he would not have been who he was without the support of his wife, Virginia, whom he was married to for 55 years after the two met at Langston as students.
“He shared as much as he could and as often as he could,” Wynn said. “And as much as Virginia would allow him. And when she didn’t, he did it anyway. That’s a man for you.”
Emmitt Millhouse, who served as an assistant at Langston underneath Schoats in the early 70s, spoke on behalf of all the coaches whom he had ever met.
“We talk about the athletic ability, but you fellows at Langston University know that Doc was an academic person,” Millhouse said of Schoats, who later went to Oklahoma State University to earn his master’s and doctorate degrees after graduating from Langston.“You had to be able to get your work done to be able to continue to play. And that was my job was to follow you around and to make sure that you didn’t miss a class.”
Although Schoats never had a son by birth — five daughters instead — Millhouse expressed that Schoats had several sons by association at Manual Training and Langston.
“I sat with him in the hospital,” Millhouse said, “and I want you to remember one thing: He never forgot about you.”
Likewise, his players never forgot about their coach. Those who where coached by him at Manual and Langston were asked to stand up and be recognized at one point by Wiley. One of those men, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, spoke on behalf all those players whose lives were deeply impacted by Schoats.
Although 56 of Schoats’ players went onto play professional football of some variety, no player experienced more limelight than Henderson, an All-Pro linebacker who went from Langston to the Dallas Cowboys and was a member of the 1979 Super Bowl team.
“I’m supposed to be with Don King at a prize fight in Miami tonight. I said no. I’ve got something more important to do,” Henderson said.
“I know you all call him ‘Doc’ but he really liked to be called ‘Coach.’ He loved his boys. He loved all boys... If you could play, he would let you play. If you couldn’t play, he would let you watch. That didn’t mean he didn’t love you though.”
More laughter filled the air.
“I’m probably Albert Schoats’ bad boy,” Henderson said. “The stepson. I arrived at Langston University in 1971, an 18-year-old boy who didn’t have a father, who didn’t have nowhere else to go. I might as well been in an immigrant coming to Langston University.”
Unfortunately for Henderson, none of Schoats’ players’ demise was more publicly documented than the former Cowboy, who was kicked off the team by Dallas coach Tom Landry after failing to exorcise his demons of alcohol and illegal drugs during the ’79 season.
“Everybody knows that I’ve been through a lot,” Henderson said. “I want to tell you today that by the grace of God, I haven’t had a drink or a drug in 23 years.”
He added that for 30 years, Schoats pestered him to finish his degree, an accomplishment that Henderson achieved in 2002 from Langston.
“Albert Schoats was so proud of that,” Henderson said. “So you’re looking at a guy here who Albert Schoats in many ways helped, because he kept giving me chances...
“Now we didn’t like Albert, but we respected him and respect turns to love. And so Albert, I love you, I say before your family and friends.”
He certainly was not alone.
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This Week's Circulars
22, died in Arkansas on Monday, June 21, 2021. Services pending with Garrett Family Funeral Home of Checotah.
95, farmer's wife, passed away Sunday, June 20, 2021 in Checotah. Service of Celebration 2 PM Tuesday, June 22, 2021 at First Baptist Church of Checotah. Burial at Greenlawn Cemetery. Garrett Family Funeral Home
77, homemaker, passed Tuesday, June 15, 2021 Graveside Service: 10 am, Saturday, June 19, 2021 at McClain Cemetery in Muskogee, OK. Service provided by Cornerstone Funeral Home.
52, of Dolph, AR, passed away Monday, May 24, 2021 in Springfield, MO. Memorial Service 2:30 PM Saturday, June 19, 2021 in the Serenity Chapel of Garrett Family Funeral Home in Checotah, OK.
Calvin "Mike" Littlejohn, 66, Okmulgee resident, left us June 10, 2021. Visitation Friday, 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM, Keith D. Biglow Funeral Directors, Okmulgee. Hour of Remembrance, Saturday, 2:00 PM in the Chapel of Peace. biglowfunerals.com
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